The Gallawa Hills

from the singing of Jeannie Robertson (1908 –75)

For ah'll tak my plaidie contented tae be
A wee bit kilted aboon my knee
And I'll gie my pipes anither blaw
And I'll gang oot ower the hills tae Gallowa'

Oh the Gallowa' hills are covered wi'
Wi' heather bells in bonnie bloom
Wi' heather bells and rivers a'
An I'll gang oot ower the hills tae Gallowa'

And it's hey, bonnie lass, will ye come
alang wi' me
Tae share my lot in a strange countrie
Tae share my lot when doon fa's a'
And we'll gang oot ower the hills tae Gallowa'

For I'll sell my rock, I'll sell my reel
I'll sell my grannie's spinning wheel
I'll sell them a' when doon fa's a'
An I'll gang oot ower the hills tae Gallowa'

Abune, aboon
: above
Kilted: tucked up
Plaid: Rectangular length of twilled woollen cloth, usually
tartan, once worn as an outer garment
Reel: base for winding yarn on when spinning
Rock: distaff with wool or flax on it for spinning

Ewan McVicar, Sangschule’s first Chair, brought the group this song. He sang ‘riveries’ following Jeannie Robertson’s example but Sangschule later changed it to ‘rivers’ by majority decision.

Norman Buchan’s note in 101 Scottish Songs says:”This fine song for which we are indebted to Jeannie Robertson, is evidently based on ‘The Braes of Galloway’ by William Nicholson, the wandering minstrel of Galloway, who lived and roamed and sang from 1783 to1849.” Buchan says that his printed version has reverted to some extent to Nicholson’s chorus.

“The Braes of Galloway”, as found in Nicholson’s Poetical Works, was sung to “The White Cockade”, a Jacobite song. Buchan says Hamish Henderson suggested that “The Braes of Galloway” might itself be based on an earlier Jacobite song. Henderson based this opinion partly on the tune, and partly on the theme of departure throughout the song,

Hamish Henderson, Research Fellow of the School of Scottish Studies, writer and folksong collector, met Jeannie Robertson in 1953 when he made a song collecting trip to Aberdeen and realised at once that she was a singer and tradition bearer of great stature. He recorded her singing, and brought her to public notice at the time of the 1953 Edinburgh Festival at his third “Edinburgh People’s Festival Ceilidh.” From that time, she was recorded, travelled widely to perform and was eventually awarded the OBE.